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Citadel News Service
14 Sep 2016

Letter to the Editor: Helping Honduras

As seen in The Post and Courier on Sept. 14, 2016

Corruption in Honduras is an important humanitarian issue (Aug. 28 “Block U.S. funds to Honduras”), but Ed Buckley misleads readers by suggesting the United States is meddling or complacent in Honduras’ fight against corruption.

“Clinton backed a military coup in 2009” is a disputed assertion. Then Honduran president Manuel Zelaya set in motion an unconstitutional plebiscite asking the public to allow him to run for another term, actions perhaps similar to those that Buckley sees as illegitimate by current president Juan Orlando Hernandez.

Zelaya’s maneuvers were unconstitutional in the judgment of the Honduran Supreme Court and Congress, both of which formally censured his Hugo Chavez-like electoral manipulation. The Honduran military, under Gen. Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, removed Zelaya at the behest of the Supreme Court. An August 2009 Law Library of Congress report, largely ignored by the media and activists, opined that Honduran institutions acted constitutionally.

Among non-Venezuela-aligned countries, only Brazil, with its hard-left Itamaraty foreign ministry, supported Zelaya in 2009. So if Clinton supported a military coup, then so did much of the western hemisphere.

Today, the Honduran National Anti-Corruption Council (CNA) is an innovative quasi-governmental agency that combines two functions traditionally weak or lacking in Honduras and key to controlling corruption: investigative journalism and forensic support for government prosecutors of public sector corruption.

CNA has shown itself to be independent, but it is not unaccountable. True, CNA’s work is pedestrian as it goes after corrupt managers of Injupemp, a government employee pension plan administrator, but not everyone can be Woodward and Bernstein.

The United States has been supportive of CNA, and the latter’s offices are almost literally in the shadow of the U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa.

Moral renovation is the force behind the inspiring Central American Spring, and it is refreshing to focus on a small, non-strategic country that is trying to reign in corruption. But the United States can best help Honduras by first understanding the country’s corruption fight complexities.

Brian Norris, Ph.D.
Assistant professor, Dept. of Criminal Justice, The Citadel

Brian Norris, Ph.D., lived and worked in Latin America for 5 years and has completed 27 research or work trips to the region since 1997. His country experience includes El Salvador, Bolivia, Mexico, Honduras, Argentina, Paraguay, Ecuador, Panama, Cuba and India. He is author of scholarly publications on demographic changes in South America, on credit institutions in the US South and in South America, and on criminal justice institutions in Mexico. Prison Bureaucracies in the US, Mexico and India is a book manuscript in progress and is under contract with Lexington Books, due for publication in mid-2017.

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